Who should be Australia’s next Governor-General? Who has the ideal combination of brains, courage, work ethic and basic animal magnetism to fill the broad, demanding shoes once filled by such giants of history as Peter Hollingworth and Ronald Munro-Ferguson? When Kevin Rudd sits down this year to select a new G-G, through the ancient traditional process of sticking a pin in the Herald Sun gossip pages, he will be making a decision of such weighty import that literally dozens of people are expected to care.
The Governor-General is the Queen’s representative in Australia, performing all the duties that she cannot perform because she is too busy hunting grouse or syringing greenfly or blocking hats or whatever it is she does. It goes without saying that whoever becomes Governor-General requires a detailed and expert knowledge of constitutional law, so as they are able to avoid the disastrous destabilisation of our democracy that would result if they accidentally, for any reason, did anything. They should also be skilled at ribbon-cutting; history shows that well over half of Australia’s Governors-General have been able to operate scissors.
Of course, some people will try to tell you that a Governor-General’s job consists entirely of attending those events too dull and obscure to send Simon Crean to. This could not be further from the truth. First of all, there are no events too dull and obscure to send Simon Crean to. Secondly, the Governor-General also has a number of extremely important "reserve powers", such as the power to dismiss ministers, the power to dissolve parliament, the power to withhold assent to bills, the power to dissolve ministers, the power to command woodland animals, and the power to have Normie Rowe killed.
The most interesting part of the reserve powers is that the Governor-General can dismiss the Prime Minister, if the Government cannot obtain supply or if the Governor-General has been drinking; but the Prime Minister can likewise dismiss the Governor-General. This can potentially lead to the exciting situation of having both men racing to get to a phone, the first one to call the Queen getting to sack the other. It’s rather like an old Western, where two gunfighters stare each other down, draw and shoot, and the quickest to the gun is allowed to open the Olympics. The advent of call waiting has made the process even more exciting, coupled with the fact that the Queen still hasn’t quite got to grips with her new phone’s functions.
So, bearing all this in mind, who should the next Governor-General be? The hot tip was former Opposition Leader Kim ‘Bomber’ Beazley, until Rudd publicly ruled that out, saying he would not select a former politician, even one to whom the term applied as loosely as it does to Beazley. So, politics is out. Who then? An athlete? An artist? A scientist? A soldier? Anything is possible. Governors-General in the past have come from many walks of life. Peter Hollingworth was a clergyman, Paul Hasluck was a historian, and Sir William Deane was a magical gnome.
Some have called for a woman to be appointed to the post, as a criticism levelled at the office of Governor-General is that it is a role seemingly always filled by elderly white men. However, you could say the same about the Little River Band, and you don’t hear anyone calling for Glenn Shorrock to make way for Pat O’Shane. Nevertheless, the prospect of at last having a female Governor-General is a real possibility in modern Australia, despite the misgivings of those who point out that although it’s all very well for women to prove their capabilities in all areas of business, politics, sports, the arts and academia, grave doubts remain as to whether a female could carry out the onerous duties of Governor-Generalship, such as being Chief Scout of Australia and standing upright, sometimes for over half an hour at a stretch.
There are some who claim Don Bradman would be the ideal candidate. One objection to this is the fact that Don Bradman is, in a technical sense, dead. On the other hand, this has not always been an impediment; for example, the current Governor-General, Michael Jeffery, died in the early 1930s, and nobody has seemed to either notice or mind. Other legendary sportspeople who may be suitable include Steve Waugh, Evonne Goolagong, Rob de Castella and Phar Lap, the last a particularly intriguing option – the first Governor-General to serve under glass?
The world of the arts supplies us with many worthy candidates, not least Ben Dark. Many people would scoff at the idea of, say, Delta Goodrem wielding supreme executive power over our nation, but does she not already wield supreme executive power over our hearts? Anyone familiar with the story of Federation knows very well that Australia, was, indeed, born to try. On the other hand, what about Gary Sweet? Certainly, it seems like a stupid idea, but when compared to the thought of Governor-General Rhonda Burchmore, it suddenly sounds like a slightly less stupid idea. More suitably, Maggie Tabberer would seem to have the appropriate mixture of statesmanlike gravitas and insufferable personality to fit the bill, and in this respect is very similar to former Governor-General the late Sir Isaac ‘Isaac’ Isaacs, who was known as the Maggie T of his day.
There are myriad notables who would doubtless do a fine job of navigating the tricky waters of taxpayer-funded luxury that is the Governor-General’s heavy task. From the military world, we have General Peter Cosgrove, a man who epitomises the ANZAC spirit in every respect except his failure to die in a mudheap at the age of nineteen. From the business world we have Richard Pratt, who combines the virtues of hard work, enterprise, and a charming willingness to violate the law on a massive scale, with the oft-underappreciated advantage of being married to an alien. And of course from the world of science we have Dr Tim Flannery, whose chances, admittedly, have been cruelled by the Un-Australian Act of 2006, which legally designated scientists as "wankers".
In the end there is no shortage of candidates for Rudd to choose from, and whoever gets the job, as long as it is neither Mel nor Kochie, I am sure we will all be greatly satisfied with the image they portray to the minor dignitaries of the world’s less important countries on their many poorly publicised missions of vague goodwill. The important thing is that whoever is selected is the most passionate and proud of Australians, for nothing else will do for the representative of the Queen of England. We want a quintessential Australian, someone who calls a spade a spade, who laughs in the face of pomp and pretension, someone with the guts to carry on our great tradition of irreverence and larrikinism and severe drinking problems. Someone with Aussie ingrained in them, right deep down in their bones.
And, for economy’s sake, their own pair of scissors.
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